ccdnsw shut up shop last week after failing to renegotiate continued financial support from the NSW state government.
In justifying the decision, NSW Arts Minister Virginia Judge, is quoted in the Sun-Herald as saying: ‘ccdnsw is an advisory body. It does not create or program any arts events. [That is, it doesn’t offer me enough photo opps] It started 25 years ago [that is, I’m bored] when community cultural activities were not as prolific and as advanced as they are today’ [1985 was a high point for community arts – one could easily argue that it’s been downhill ever since].
The apparent bureaucratic excuse for the withdrawal of support was that ccdnsw failed under the ‘audience development’ criterium. Apart from providing the justification for defunding, one can only speculate why this criterium was applied to this organisation, especially when their entire focus, at least figuratively speaking, is about getting people out of the auditorium and on to the stage.
Fact is that the concept of community arts is fundamentally subversive. That is, it stands in direct opposition to the prevailing ideology of marketisation. The idea that art might be a process in which ordinary people engage (making their own culture) cannot help but be an anathema to those that see the arts as an industry in which specialists produce commodities for sale to passive consumers. What’s more, the very concept of active engagement has to be viewed as dangerous by power-brokers whose comfortable existence is dependent on an acquiescent public.
ccdnsw, on it website, claims that its ‘primary role and purpose is to be the leading voice advancing social change through the arts’. The bigger question might be, how did they manage to scam money out the NSW government for so long before getting the knife?
Interestingly, some years ago, NSW did expressly force ccdnsw to not offer training. No wonder really – the last thing they want is some social change.
It is tempting to speculate that ccd has become a victim of its own success – that Labor has ‘defunded’ it because of the trouble they’re causing. If only. More likely is that the bureaucrats have become bored. After all, ccd doesn’t do foyer like the big boys.
Might not ccd be better off free of the fetters of governments whose fundamental beliefs and behaviours are diametrically opposed to the values it promotes? Possibly, but bucks are still needed for workers, rent and so on. We are lucky enough to live in a society that at least nominally, recognises that the state has a responsibility to support (minimal) dissent – just as long as it doesn’t get too entrenched would appear to be the rider.
Seems like ccdnsw’s demise is a done deal. Scott O’Hara (Arts Hub) and Phoebe Coyne (New Matilda) have written perceptive pieces to no avail. With qcan’s departure late last year, and the earlier destruction of Artwork magazine, ccd.net and indeed the Community Cultural Development Board of the OzCo, it would appear that the free marketeers are well on the way to achieving their goal. Makes the title of the OzCo’s latest research tome, ‘More than Bums on Seats’ ring pretty hollow really.